Would this harrowing story of harassment on a London bus, submitted to this blog last month by Gemma, 16 year old, have been different if she had seen a poster on the bus telling her she could text 61016 to report what happened?
If she had felt confident in speaking to the driver because they knew she would be believed?
We’re asking #wherearetheposters because it is time to get the message out of the promotional pens and onto the transport network!
This week, I (Bryony) sat on the Policing and Crime panel at the London Assembly, whose role it is to scrutinise and look at the efficacy of City Hall policy, alongside End Violence Against Women Coalition, London Travel Watch, the former head of BTP and Suzy Lamplugh Trust. I was able to explain to them the joy but also some of the frustrations we have had in watching Project Guardian’s progress over the last few years, since we were invited to sit on the advisory board in 2012. I asked assembly members for support in our continued lobbying for some kind of public, real world, network-based messaging about sexual offences on public transport.
We have really put the work in to represent women and LGBT people who experience harassment, and share their concerns in a whole host of different contexts, from executive roundtables at the Department for Transport, to British Transport Police presentations, academic conferences, BBC London, BBC News and more regional radio shows than you can name. We’ve worked a lot wih Dr. Jackie Gray at Middlesex University, whose team created a rapid impact assessment looking at every study of every intervention on public transport aimed at reducing. Entitled ‘“What works” in reducing sexual harassment and sexual behaviour on public transport Nationally and Internationally“, the report showed that, amongst a plethora of other useful measures, including better design of carriages and bus stops, poster awareness campaigns do help passenger to feel safer.
The rapid impact assessment was commissioned by BTP, and yet this evidence base seems to have been brushed over by TfL. The social media work has already been very successful, see the recent 32.2% increase in recorded sexual offences on public transport, but the recognition of the campaign is still so low amongst women I speak to about harassment every day.
Earlier this year, the Report it to Stop it video was launched. This excellent, hard-hitting video showed an incident on the tube, and asked viewers when they would report. It made plain the self-doubt and the fear that can contribute to underreporting of harassment and assault, and gave a real world example that didn’t stereotype. It was really effective:
But this video only appears as a digital ad targeted at 18-35 year old women. We believe that everyone, including men and children (we know that school journeys are often the site of sexual harassment for young girls) should receive these messages, and more importantly, we believe they need to appear ON BUSES, TRAINS AND TUBES!
Just as TfL is happy to share messages that assaults on staff on trains will be taken seriously, it does this on the trains where it can happen, not on Youtube! Messages about pickpocketing are considered important enough to appear on buses, trains, trams, so why not sexual assault?
I put these questions to TfL Communications department team earlier this year, over three years since my involvement on the advisory board of Project Guardian. Clearly this is a very carefully constructed campaign, and I was reassured that it is long term and that methods could change, but was also told that there were currently no plans to take the message beyond the social media world, largely due to two key concerns:
- That the message is “too complex” for those who may only glance at it on the bus or train
That a message that mentions sexual offences may put women off using the network
The issue of fear of crime reducing travel is an understandable issue for TfL, of course, and this fear comes from a respondent at a focus group who, when shown a poster from an American city, said it would put her off travelling. We know this because we helped the market research company to write the questions! The video is awesome and has had some brilliant feedback, so let’s get it out there on the network now, instead of just hoping that women will not have Ad-block installed and may see a video online and make the effort to save 61016 in their phone.
All of these hours of research and work has been unpaid, because I want my city to be safer. It’s time to ask #wherearetheposters. Take a selfie on public transport, wherever you are, and use the hashtag #wherearetheposters if you believe women and LGBT deserve safety while travelling.